Monthly Archives: October 2009

Life Lemons

I was standing on the sidewalk in front of my house on Saturday when a little girl, maybe nine, ran towards me.

“Did you see three boys with a lemonade jar?” she asked, panting.

“No,” I said. “Why?”

“They stole our jar right off the table,” she said, pointing a half block behind her where two other girls were standing. “We were having a lemonade stand.”

“They stole your lemonade from your lemonade stand,” I said, aghast.

“Yes.”

“Swiped it right off the table?”

“Yes, and then they ran this way.”

“That is awful,” I said, “and completely criminal. Are your parents home?”

“Yes.”

“Did you tell them?”

“No.”

Wow. Taking the law into her own hands, and feet. She was fast.

“Go tell them, and maybe you could get into the car and look for the boys. And meantime, I will keep my eyes open.” 

She thanked me and sped off. It was quite the prank, I thought. But usually, pranksters know their subjects. And they come back later to laugh about it. These were strange boys, though, which made the act feel malevolent and immoral. They did not know the little girls. They weren’t big brothers. They weren’t going to return with the jar, I didn’t think.

Hard to turn this one into lemonade.


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Here Comes the Judge

The nice policeman at the door where you check in slipped my name to the top of the list of offenders after I told him that if I didn’t leave by 7:00, my daughter would be stranded on a corner 12 miles away and we would have a kidnapping on our hands. Never mind an extra inch of weeds in the alley.

The judge asks me how I want to plead. I tell him I haven’t been charged with anything, but if I were, I’d be not guilty. Then, he asked me if I wanted a jury trial or a judge trial for my weed infraction–I am going to call it a “weedony”–and I reminded him that I wasn’t ticketed with anything or made aware in any way that the city, state or country was unhappy with me or my slice of grass. And, I suggested that perhaps, he should listen to the facts of the case first, before asking me how I want to be tried, sentenced and hung out in the public square. Well, I didn’t say the last part.

He agreed to listen. Then, he told me that he would look into the situation. I presume he is going to call all of the people I had already dealt with to confirm my facts, and then make a decision about my  alleged weedony. After he told me he would delve into the matter, he asked me if I wanted a jury trial or a judge trial and how I wanted to plead. Well, okay, I said I didn’t want the side dish, but if you need to bring it out of the kitchen, I will have the carrots. Okay, carrots. 

Not guilty. Judge. December 16. 

Meantime, I will wait for his letter. If I do not get one, I will have to tell the story all over again in December, the fourth use of public time and money, not to mention mine. Is this the way the legal system is supposed to work? I do not think so. 

On the way out, we have to stop by the clerk’s window to sign something that says we will show up on the 16th. My younger daughter came with me, did her Language Arts homework in the courtroom while we waited, and witnessed the process in action.

“My name is spelled incorrectly on this form,” I tell the lady behind the window. “Could you please change it?” She gets up to check in the file drawer. 

“That is how we have it,” she tells me.

“Would you please change it?”

“I cannot change it. It is the way it is on your water bill.”

“But it is not my name.”

“I can’t do anything about it.”

So, I ask her, when I sign my name on the paper that says I have to come on the 16th, “Well, maybe they weren’t my weeds, then. Should I sign my name with the “p” or the “t?” The right way or the wrong way?”

My daughter throws me a look. Mommy, you are being fresh with the lady.

“You can sign it any way you like.”

On the way out, my daughter tells me it wasn’t the lady behind the window I should be mad at. It was the other lady, with the camera. Right, she was, but the window lady represents the system, the annoyance, the harassment of it all, and the fact that we are dragging around at City Hall at 7:00 in the pouring rain when we should be home doing our Language Arts. Then, I told her to stand up for herself, wherever, whenever. Life demands it.

Silver lining.


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In Texas News…

Just a little round-up, as we like to say in the news biz:

Not too long ago, a report found that more teenagers have repeat pregnancies in Dallas, Texas than in any other city in the United States. Today, we find out that Texas, as a state, leads the nation in deaths from child abuse and neglect.

Interestingly, we have known all along that Texas, led into such distinction by its governor, Rick Perry, you know, the death-sentence for-innocent-guys guy, is very  close to the bottom of the list in per-capita spending to protect children. Shouldn’t we want the lists flipped? I think we want the lists flipped.

From 2001 to 2007, more than 1,500 kids died due to neglect and abuse, more than any other state. Abominable. 

Now that George W. is being motivational, he can address the issue. 

In other news, two men held since 1997 for a Dallas murder have been exonerated. Someone else was just arrested. That’s good. 

And later, I will be heading to Municipal Court to tackle the weeds-in-the-alley issue. Lots of hyphens today, I know. And rain. Four inches, maybe.

Okay, then.



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The Forest For The Trees

There are alleys behind the houses where I live. A town ordinance says that residents are required to keep the 12 inches of land next to the road free of any sort of overgrowth. If a weed or shoot of some kind exceeds eight inches in height, you are in trouble with the law.

In July, I received a written warning from the Code Enforcement Officer, a woman who drives around in a truck with a camera. She hunts for offenders on a daily basis, driving her truck through the alleys as if she were looking for a lost llasa apso. Her name is Pat. Grecco. I despise Pat Grecco. A little history: Before Pat started bothering me about my weeds, she hounded me about my garbage pail lids. They had to be connected by a cord or chain so that the wind wouldn’t blow them down the alley, creating all sorts of mayhem for drivers, garbage men and assorted fauna who come out at night. I connected the lids with bungee cord to the pail, requiring drilling and a drill, and a male friend who owned the drill. Then, I received a second warning, with a photo attached, claiming that we had drilled incorrectly. The lids were to be attached to the metal pail holder, according to very important city doctrine, or I would be hauled off to court.

Back to the weeds. I receive the warning and call the gardener. I tell him to chop down anything taller than eight inches, whatever it is. Tree, vine, possum. I don’t care. And that is that. No more notes from Pat.

Last week, I find a letter in my mailbox from the Municipal Court. It says that I, Pamela Kritke, spelled with the “t,” have a cause number, among other things, like a fine and a pending arrest. Yes, arrest for “excessive accumulation of brush, weeds or rubbish.” Rubbish, I say. I call Yaneth, over at the courthouse. Hello, Yaneth. What’s up.

Seems that Pat, Grecco, issued a citation (translation: wrote me a ticket) that I never received. When I didn’t pay the $97 fine or show up to contest it, Yaneth sent me a letter threatening me with the arrest and the consequences of the arrest:

“Your name will be placed on the Regional Wanted Persons Network. You may be subject to arrest at any time at home, at work, on the road or other. You may be subject to non-renewal of your Driver’s License and Vehicle Registration.” 

Well, I think, at least it is not the National Wanted Persons Network. 

Yaneth tells me that only Pat can dismiss the ticket. Pat is not the kind of woman to dismiss a classroom, let alone a ticket. I decide to go over to Pat’s office to speak with her boss, Kenneth. Kenneth nods his head. He commiserates. He finds the citation on the computer and figures that I just didn’t get it because there was no record of a returned receipt. He has 16 photographs of grandchildren, one per frame. I tell him there are people driving 90 miles an hour on residential streets and other people shooting themselves in their living rooms, and that a weed offense is a silly waste of time. He says he will talk to Pat.

Pat calls the next morning. She says she has in her hand the citation that I did not receive. Then, she says that she doesn’t care if I’m a single mom and can’t make it to the Wednesday-at-5:30 only court date. Or that my 12 inches in the alley is more manicured than Cowboy stadium. If I don’t show, she said, I will be fined. That Pat. I tell her she will be sorry for her poor choice.

I visit the City Manager, Bob. Bob is a lovely gentleman. “I don’t know why she is persisting. All they are supposed to want is compliance.” I remind him of the people in the living room and he nods his head, just like Kenneth did. He tells me, though, it is up to Pat. He cannot step in between law enforcement and a citizen, because then, he’d be reversing tickets for the people who say they weren’t driving 90 miles in a residential neighborhood when they were. But he says he will call her and let me know. Later in the day, he calls and tells me that Pat won’t dismiss anything and if I get to the court at 5:55, I’ll be out of there by 7, and the judge will take care of it.

So…I will be going to Municipal Court tomorrow at 5:55, letters, photos, transcripts of conversations in hand. Justice at work. Weeds at play. I will tell the judge that Pat is a harassing useless woman with a dumb camera and an insecure ego. In my expert opinion. 

Stay tuned….



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The End

It is tempting to actually write “The End” at the end of a book that you write. You want to write it because it is what you have been working toward. But it is trite, yes, and it is not accurate. The end of a book is really the beginning of another one, whether you write it or the reader thinks it in his head. It’s like “au revoir,” which is good-bye, but only for a little while. 

Anyway, despite what it means, I have arrived at the end. And that is good. I like it. It tells a memorable story. I think it is poignant. And for these days, it has that marketing hook thing that all good literature has to have. Now, we need the agent. Agent, anyone??

 


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When The Shoe Doesn’t Fit

Here is a quote from a doctoral student in biostatistics, reported in a New York Times piece the other day:

“It’s important to pay attention to size and width, not just buy it because it’s cute.”

Doctoral student. Biostatistics. Buy it because it’s cute. 

I just love this. The woman–she is clearly a woman–is talking about shoes. Shoes! Apparently, in a study of 3,378 men and women, aged 66, 60 percent of the gals chose to wear, in the course of their lives, heels, pumps, sandals and slippers that caused pain. They did not choose footwear that did not cause pain because, it is implied, those shoes were not cute. Instead, nearly two-thirds of the surveyed ladies suffered distress in their hind feet, ankles and Achilles tendons, engaging in high-risk behavior despite the safer options. Suffer for beauty, I always say.

First, is this surprising? Isn’t this common knowledge? Don’t we all have “sitting shoes?” Don’t we all walk a little like Frankenstein sometimes because it is important for the dress to have that silhouette? The trousers to have that line? Of course we do.

Second, isn’t this a funny thing to study at a university, not just because we already know the answer (without the biostatistical training) but because there might be more compelling research to be done these days? Shoes? Cancer? Climate change? I don’t know. 

And third, if the biostatistical graduate student is going to spend time analyzing the footwear selections of pained women, in a university setting, wouldn’t she want to put her data into technical terms, maybe, like frequencies and sin curves and you know, laboratory jargon. Cute e coli? Darling residue? A bacteria with a really big size and width?

I do not like to mock any sort of intellectual endeavor, okay, most of the time, but this effort is pretty wacky. And the serious coverage of it even more ridiculous. Next up…”Studies Advise Looking Both Ways Before Crossing.” I will try to remember that.

 



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